Gastroenterologists carry out several procedures to diagnose, treat, and manage conditions.
These procedures include:
During an endoscopy, a gastroenterologist uses a camera that attaches to a long, thin tube called an endoscope to look inside the body.
They insert the endoscope through the mouth, down the throat, and into the esophagus. It sends images back to a screen for monitoring.
A gastroenterologist might perform an endoscopy to investigate symptoms such as:
- persistent heartburn
- nausea and vomiting
- problems with swallowing
- stomach pain
- unexplained weight loss
Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy
These procedures are similar to an endoscopy, but they require the gastroenterologist to insert the tube into the rectum, rather than the mouth.
A gastroenterologist can see the entire colon and rectum during a colonoscopy. A sigmoidoscopy only allows them to examine the rectum and lower colon.
During these procedures, gastroenterologists might be looking for:
- early signs of colon or rectum cancer
- causes of bowel habit changes
- causes of specific symptoms, such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or unexplained weight loss
During a polypectomy, a gastroenterologist will remove one or more polyps from the lining of the bowel.
Polyps are noncancerous growths that can develop on the colon. They are very common, affecting 30% of those over the age of 50 years in the United States.
The gastroenterologist will either remove the polyps with wire loop forceps or use an electric current to burn them off during a colonoscopy.
During esophageal dilation, a gastroenterologist will stretch out a narrowed area of the esophagus.
Acid reflux can scar this muscular tube, narrowing it and making it hard for a person to swallow food.
Layers of excess tissue, cancer of the esophagus, and scarring from radiation treatment can all lead to the same problem.
The gastroenterologist stretches the tube by using a plastic dilator or inflating a balloon. They will usually carry this out during an endoscopy.
The gastroenterologist may sedate the person for the procedure. Alternatively, they may apply a local anesthetic spray to the back of the person’s throat.
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